Iron Maiden

Last night we had some friends over for dinner and at some point the conversation managed to wind its way around such that my reference to the Battle of Passchendaele made sense. And the question came up as to how I knew about this grim killing field from World War I, and of course the answer was Iron Maiden

At which point I found myself explaining something that is probably utterly mystifying to anyone who did not grow up listening to heavy metal but is enjoyed greatly by those of us who did: much of Iron Maiden’s repertoire is based on references to literature, history, film, television, and mythology. And it is often done quite respectfully. Even, one might say, tastefully.

To make the point here, I’ll highlight a few of the songs that I’ve enjoyed and then ask my faithful readers who might have listened to a little Maiden growing up to chime in with further references. Of course, that assumes I have any faithful readers left. So here goes.

The Trooper – Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” and the Battle of Balaclava (part of the Crimean War)

Where Eagles Dare – book and movie of the same name

Flight of Icarus – Greek myth

To Tame a Land – “Dune” by Frank Herbert. Here’s a great detail from Wikipedia.

However, when Steve Harris requested permission from the author to name the song “Dune” and to use a spoken quotation as the track’s intro, his request was met with a stern reply from Frank Herbert’s agent: “No. Because Frank Herbert doesn’t like rock bands, particularly heavy rock bands, and especially rock bands like Iron Maiden”. This statement was backed up with a legal threat, and eventually the song was renamed “To Tame a Land” and released in 1983.

Children of the Damned – film of the same name

The Prisoner & Back in the Village (2 songs, 1 topic) – British television show “The Prisoner”

Run to the Hills – Europeans coming to the Americas

Aces High – British RAF versus the German Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain

Rime of the Ancient Mariner – though 13 minutes in length, it is still an abridged version of the poem

12 Replies to “Iron Maiden”

  1. You forgot that I learned about Chesterton for the first time from Iron Maiden and sang his hym in Church. It was at the beginning of some weird song on the Piece of Mind album.

  2. I’m in agreement on both counts (Iron Maiden and Metallica). If you go more toward the prog rock side of metal, I think a few other bands deserve mention, particularly Dream Theater and maybe Savatage (both the early metal version of Savatage and the later metal show tunes version).

  3. DT are special, no doubt. I hate to say, but Guns-n-Roses “Apetite for Destruction” has to be considered one of the greatest single American metal albums ever. The short lifespan of the band makes it diffidult to mention them with Metallica, but for an album or two, they were as metal as metal gets.

  4. I’d vote Queensryche as the overall best American metal band, with Metallica a close second. It’s almost embarrassing to admit this, but I did not “get” Metallica at first. I had Kill Em All in high school and didn’t like it. It wasn’t until Master of Puppets that I gained the proper appreciation of Metallica.

    For more of pop metal or hard rock sound, I still play a lot of Tesla.

  5. I recently picked up four more Queensryche albums (for years I only had Operation: Mindcrime) and have really enjoyed them. Some of the songs make me think: this is what Dokken should have been.

    I had Tesla’s first album when it first came out (late 80’s?) on tape but haven’t heard it in years. Did they stick with it through the 90’s?

  6. Tesla vanished for most of the 90s and then came back about 3 years ago with a surprisingly good album. Earlier this year they released an album consisting of nothing but covers of 70s rock tunes. It is better than you might think.

  7. Frankly, I’m still resistant to Metallica. Queensryche is far better in my opinion.

    But my main beef with Metallica is my perception that they get the credit that Iron Maiden should have had.

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